New GCSEs will be graded 9–1, rather than A*–G. Grade 9 is the highest grade, set above the current A*. The new system is intended to help provide more differentiation, especially among higher achieving students.
The grades will be given for the first time in 2017 exam results, for specifications that first started teaching in 2015. By 2019, all GCSE results will be using the new system.
The outcome of a consultation on setting the grade standards of new GCSEs in England for 2017 and 2018 was confirmed on 7 September 2016.
The approach to awarding the top grades will be the same for all GCSE subjects. A formula will be used that means that around 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9.
The grade 8 boundary will be equally spaced between the grade 7 and grade 9 boundaries. To carry forward the current standard, the number of grades 7, 8 and 9 awarded for an individual subject will be based on the proportion of the cohort who would have been expected to get an A or A*, had the qualification not been reformed.
Watch our animation about the new grading system. Video transcript
Grade descriptors for 9–1 GCSEs
Ofqual has developed grade descriptors for the reformed GCSEs graded 9 to 1. These are designed to help teachers by providing an indication of the likely average level of performance at the mid-points of grades 2, 5 and 8.
They’ve been developed with the input of subject experts and exam boards, and the wording draws on the relevant subject content published by the Department for Education (DfE) as well as the assessment objectives published by Ofqual. They’re not designed to be used for awarding purposes, unlike the ‘grade descriptions’ that apply to current GCSEs graded A* to G.
The government has announced that a grade 4 will be known as a 'standard pass'. A grade 5 will be known as a 'strong pass' and will be equivalent to a high C and low B on the old grading system. Grade 4 will remain the level that students must achieve without needing to re-sit English and Maths post-16.
Other useful resources
- Ofqual video: new GCSE 9–1 grades
- DfE factsheets on the new GCSE grading scale
- Ofqual blog post: setting grade 9 in the new GCSEs
- Ofqual blog post: the problems with predicting grades
- GCSE resit opportunities
- Wales and Northern Ireland
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